Don’t think — just do

9 May 2011

Written by: Ben Waterworth

‘Compared to previous years, this year’s final season has been made all the more intriguing by the fact that there are five teams – St.Kilda, Geelong, Collingwood, Adelaide and the Western Bulldogs – who all have a genuine chance of winning the premiership.’

These were the first words I wrote for upstart back in September 2009. While not much is wrong with the opening sentence, it’s hard for me not to cringe when looking at it. For instance I’ve written ‘years’ twice within three words, included ‘that’ unnecessarily and put ‘the’ before Western Bulldogs when it shouldn’t be there, because Western Bulldogs is the official name of the club, therefore it’s a singular noun.

Yes those are very minor observations — some unfamiliar with style guides might even call them silly observations. But when you have written, read and edited so many articles since then, it’s hard not to pick up on those small things now.

You’re currently reading my 100th article for upstart. It’s a landmark I thought I’d never get to, but one I’m glad I’ve achieved and one I’m proud of.

upstart has given me the opportunity to do what I love best — talk and write about sport.

Ever since I was a primary school kid, I’ve always wanted to be a sports journalist. I grew up listening to the exciting dulcet tones of Rex Hunt on radio and Bruce McAvaney on television, imitating their unique catchphrases while running around the house kicking a footy. I also enjoyed Robert Walls’ work in The Age and remember picking the same teams he tipped for the upcoming round of action.

So when upstart’s editor-in-chief Lawrie Zion announced the site was looking for sport contributors in an Audiences and Communication lecture back in 2009, I gave it a crack. Looking back on it now, I don’t know why the editorial team kept on publishing my work, but I’m so glad they did because I’ve received some fantastic opportunities since.

I started writing weekly AFL previews during the 2010 season, giving my thoughts and predictions on how each game might pan out over the upcoming weekend. Halfway through the season, Tony Wilmot from Sportingbet Australia gave me a call and said he had been reading my previews on upstart. He then asked if I could start writing weekly previews for Sportingbet.

Bingo. My first paid writing gig. It was a brilliant feeling. All that hard work had finally paid off.

Horse racing guru Ben Asgari scored a similar job with Centrebet, after he wrote previews for all the big Australian meets during the Spring Carnival in 2009.

Other former upstart editors have been able to achieve full-time employment in the media as well. Tom Cowie with Crikey, Erdem Koc with SBS and Matt de Neef with The Conversation are just some of the guys who have been able put ‘upstart editor’ on their résumé. And look where it’s got them.

I’m currently undertaking Online Editing and Publishing, a third-year subject that earns me 20 credit points for my degree. I’m being assessed to edit upstart — as a university subject.

To me, editing upstart isn’t a subject. It’s a job. An exciting, full-time occupation — minus the pay of course.

It’s an incredibly fun experience. Not only do you write your own articles and edit other people’s work, but you also see how a website is run and see where hits come from. You also work with a fantastic editorial team, who are incredibly supportive and just as passionate about journalism as you are.

Scoring a job in the media today is difficult. You can’t walk out of a university with a Bachelor of Journalism, Media Studies or Arts degree and expect to walk straight into a job. It doesn’t work like that.

So how do you impress and score a gig in such a competitive sector? Produce consistent, unpaid content. Yes a lot of it has got to do with who you know these days, but it’s what you do to impress the people you know that counts the most. You can learn as much as you want in a lecture or a tutorial, but unless you put it into practice in some form, you’ll struggle.

I can’t encourage you enough to contribute to upstart. With the journalism industry placing such a strong emphasis on the digital and online format, having articles published on a website as prolific as this one will look handy on the CV.

If you’re pondering whether or not to send us an article, or considering undertaking Online Publishing and Editing as a subject in the future, take a leaf out of John Kennedy’s book. During the half-time break of the 1975 VFL grand final, the former Hawthorn coach implored his players to lift an extra level. Kennedy’s message was simple yet so spine tingling.

‘At least do something. Do. Don’t think, don’t hope, do! At least you can come off and say… “at least I did something”.’

I came to La Trobe hoping to walk out with a Bachelor of Journalism degree. But when I, hopefully, graduate at the end of this year, I’ll walk out with much more than that.

Ben Waterworth is a third-year Bachelor of Journalism student at La Trobe University and is upstart’s sports editor. You can follow him on twitter: @bjwaterworth